Yaks are close relatives of the cow and buffalo which are found in the higher altitudes of the Himalayan mountains and are a vital component of the lives of the people who live in this zone. These small family groups have utilised the domesticated yak for thousands of years as a source of nourishment, transportation, textiles and fuel and their lifestyle has adapted to be seasonally nomadic as they migrate up and down the mountains following the melting of the snows and unveiling of the rich grazing lands during the warm weather.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO), Nepal currently has an estimated total of around 20,000 domesticated yaks, each of which can produce half a kilo of fine hair (Pu) and another half kilo of coarse hair (Chirpa) which are processed into wool annually. So how on Earth can there be so many thousands of 'yak wool' shawls and blankets for sale every year in Nepal, India and across the globe?
Simple. It's a scam driven by retailers.
So let's clear up some misconceptions. Yes, it is possible to buy genuine yak wool shawls and blankets. These are not, however, the brightly coloured, soft and fluffy items which are generally returned on your internet searches and are themselves a delightful product at very affordable prices. These are actually made from acrylic fibres woven into a cotton framework, sometimes on hand looms, other times in small factories, and brushed with stiff bristles to produce the 'fluffy' texture. The ferocious level of competition between retailers in Nepal, and a lack of rigorous trade regulations concerning misrepresentation of merchandise has forced many traders, who are almost all small family businesses, to go along with the myth in order to make a living. In our regular meetings with the families we work with in Nepal, we are aware of the discomfort which our suppliers feel about this situation, and their helplessness to bring about a change in government regulation which could bring it to an end. As for all the western retailers who knowingly perpetuate the myth, it seems they are unaware of the Fourth Buddhist Precept: abstain from falsehood.
We always feel that honesty is not just the best policy but the ONLY policy when selling all our products. Our shawls and blankets are clearly defined in their correct categories:
30% genuine yak wool, and
Himalayan - cotton / acrylic blend.